Findings of a new study suggest that the early humans who lived in the Middle East have more advanced survival skills than previously believed.
Researchers have long known that early humans have carnivorous behaviors but the discovery of stone tools that were unearthed in modern-day Jordan provides the first direct evidence that as early as 250,000 years ago, these tool-making hominins butchered and ate specific animals for food.
Stone Age humans took advantage of the wide array of available prey in the region despite an extremely challenging environment, where water supplies and the usual food sources of migrants passing through the region from Africa to Europe and Asia, are scarce.
The discovery of animal proteins on the ancient stone tools suggests that the early humans in the region used tools to butcher animals such as rhinoceros, horses, wild cattle and ducks for food.
Archeologists unearthed 10,000 stone tools, which include axes and arrowheads from a Jordan desert, the Azraq Oasis, which used to be a wetland long ago. Tests on 44 of the tools revealed that 17 of these ancient relics have signs of animal residues such as blood.
The researchers likewise discovered that each of the tools that they found positive for animal residue have protein for only one species, which supports the idea that the tools were used to kill and butcher for animal meat and were not just randomly contaminated by blood and other tissues.
This also makes it possible that the hominids that made these tools used each of these tools for only a single butchering episode, much like using disposable knives. Other evidences support this idea such as the tools were barely retouched. The users who used them have likely opted to make new ones instead of resharpening the old blades that have become blunt.
The findings, which were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, likewise prove that ancient pre-humans were more complex than previously believed.
"The implication of all of this is these early hominins were engaging in a wide variety of techniques in order to exploit these kind of animals," said study researcher April Nowell, from the University of Victoria.
"A rhinoceros requires a certain amount of coordination to take down, and even if you're scavenging you have to know how to drive off predators, which still requires coordination."
The modern day humans, the Homo sapiens, did not develop until about 50,000 years after the stone tools were used, which means that those who hunted at the former oasis could be an unidentified species of hominin.